Utku Cakirozer, an MP of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has directed a parliamentary question to Vice President Fuat Oktay in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey regarding the credibility of the state-run news agency, Anadolu (AA).
Cakirozer has requested that AA explain the prolonged interruption in the flow of election results data, as well as to provide information on the source of the data collected during the March 31 local elections, Gazete Duvar news reported on Wednesday.
On the evening of the local elections, there was a neck and neck mayoral race in Istanbul between opposition CHP candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, and Binali Yildirim, candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Yildirim was ahead of Imamoglu during the early hours, with a narrowing lead that was updated regularly. However, AA suddenly stopped reporting data at 23:20, when CHP’s Imamoglu was only a few thousand votes behind Yildirim, and with only a few ballot boxes left uncounted.
Shortly after the interruption of data reporting, Yildirim declared victory. A few hours later, at around 01:30 am, AA made a statement saying that there had been “no data flow from the field”. And approximately 13 hours after this statement, AA released another statement saying that they had suspended the reporting due to the lack of accurate data flow from some ballot boxes and had decided to wait for the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) results.
Suspicion of election manipulation
AA’s puzzling decision to stop data reports when the opposition candidate started closing in on Yildrim has led to conspiracy theories about election manipulation.
Dissidents of Erdogan suspect that the close ties between the ruling AKP and AA could have led to manipulation of the election results, even in the past.
AA has a controversial private company structure with 57 percent owned by the Turkish government, also an important business partner of the agency. Critics claim, therefore, that AA has not been impartial during the election campaigns.
Cakirozer invited AA to remove doubts by answering the question of how they received the results of counted ballot boxes, but this still remains unclear, even in previous elections.
“From where [or who] does AA get election results [vote counts]? Which field could not provide AA with data flow [during the interruption]? Is it a headquarter of a political party? Apart from its correspondents, did AA entrust others to provide data?” Cakirozer asked.
CHP’s Cakirozer has called for AA to reveal a detailed list of assignees for collecting data, including information such as correspondent names for each ballot box and their status. “Otherwise, the AA administration should resign,” stated Cakirozer.
Only a specific AA unit knows data source
According to a report by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster, on Thursday, some former and current employees do not know AA’s election data sources, only a specific technical unit of the agency oversees the handling of data.
Parties engaged in dispute
CHP and AKP have been engaged in disputes since Sunday’s election results, with Imamoglu disputing AA reports, saying that AA did not report election results in compliance with the election data flow from YSK, and AKP appealing all election results after the defeat in Istanbul.
AA announced on Wednesday that recounts were underway. The agency, however, has not yet provided an explanation for the data suspension and the data source inquiry.